Enterprise Heading Toward 10 GbE

Arthur Cole

2008 is shaping up to be the year for 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) in the enterprise as organizations look to broaden the connections between servers, storage and wide area systems to accommodate increasingly data-intensive workloads.


The latest research from Infonetics points to a steadily increasing market for 10 GbE gear of all kinds, with shipments for both enterprise and carrier-class equipment jumping from 300,000 in 2006 to more than 3 million by 2010. While most 10 GbE ports are shipping on Ethernet switches today, they will see greater numbers in IP edge routers and optical equipment as the market matures. And although the report does not track non-network markets, it's reasonable to assume that a greater number of servers and NICs will head toward 10 GbE as well.


A quick check of recent headlines shows a number of leading vendors have been bitten by the 10 GbE bug. Yesterday we highlighted RelData's combination of 10 GbE and SAS drives in its mid-market arrays. Now, VMware has added 10 GbE to the ESX 3.5 virtual OS by offering native support for Neterion's Xframe V-NIC adapters, which should go a long way toward cutting the latency that many users experience with virtual servers.


Even Google may be getting into the act with a possible in-house design for a 10 GbE switch that can be used to aggregate data from unmanaged switches throughout its network and quite possibly eliminate the need for a third-tier centralized switching infrastructure. Not only does it save money in both capital and operational costs, but results in a faster, more flexible network.


One concern getting little notice is how to maintain a robust performance monitoring and security architecture with the high speeds and high capacities that 10 GbE provides. A firm called NIKSUN says it is keeping ahead of the curve by optimizing its NetDetector, NetBlackBox and other analysis and compliance systems for 10 GbE. Capturing packets in high-speed networks requires a large number of read/write functions, leading to packet loss and latency if not handled properly. NIKSUN's NikOS operating system uses a proprietary storage subsystem that takes advantage of multi-threaded cores to provide non-disruptive packet capture.


It's long been a rule of thumb that new hardware capabilities are needed to accommodate the increasingly complex software environments, which in turn become ever more complex with each new hardware generation. It's a never-ending cycle that would merely be an exercise in futility if not for the tremendous gains in efficiency and productivity it generates.

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